EQT Ventures backs the Popcore team to dominate ad-driven casual mobile gaming
When King released Candy Crush Saga on Facebook in spring 2012, there was no way we could have predicted the game’s monumental success. However, when we released Candy Crush Saga on mobile seven months later it quickly became one of the most downloaded mobile games on the App Store. Seven years later, Candy Crush remains one of the top ten grossing games globally and, with multiple new titles in the franchise launched since, it’s one of the most played games globally with hundreds of millions of monthly players. But Candy Crush Saga’s impact goes beyond just its commercial success. To some extent, it started the casual gaming revolution in the mobile games industry by opening up gaming to people that had never played (or even considered playing!) games before.
The Candy Crush team obviously didn’t invent the match-3 genre, but we did innovate on this relatively simple concept that appeals to a mass audience — all ages, genders and abilities — and create a great user experience. But simple tweaks to the game, such as completely removing the stress of a timer and instead focusing on the number of moves, expanded the market significantly and made it enjoyable for many more people.
During that time (2011–2012), I regularly ran into “The Heinze Brothers”, Johannes and Thomas Heinze, who were relentlessly trying to convince me and my colleagues that we should have their “smart advertising monetization” in our mobile games. At King, we had made a decision to provide our games ad-free at the time, hence unfortunately the Heinze brothers were barking up the wrong tree. But their passion and tenacity for in-game ads always impressed me.
Fast forward seven years to 2019 — ads have indeed become an integral component of mobile games and Johannes and Thomas are perhaps more passionate about ad-driven games than ever before. After co-founding European ad network Moboqo (acquired by Applovin in 2014), Johannes and Thomas helped the now unicorn Applovin to expand beyond the US market and have recently made the leap to become game developers themselves, founding their next venture Popcore. With Popcore, they’re now creating their own data-driven, scalable mobile gaming company and checked all the boxes for the EQT Ventures team. I’m happy to announce that EQT Ventures, together with our friends Jay and Michael at Makers Fund and Unity’s David Helgason, have teamed up to accelerate Popcore’s already explosive growth through an early stage investment.
In many ways, it’s a full circle situation for the Heinze brothers and myself. They’re now developing ad-driven hyper-casual games, combining the mass-appeal of match-3 games that Candy Crush was part of setting off, with world-class experience in ad-driven monetization.
Like many of the most tenacious entrepreneurs, they’re entering an extremely competitive market without fear of failure. In the last couple of years, hundreds of games studios have emerged and launched thousands of hyper casual games. Some larger publishers, such as Voodoo, have taken an early lead in the space. However, the Heinze brothers and the team at EQT Ventures are unified in their belief that the small team at Popcore can go in and work efficiently to grab a significant market share, much like our friends at Small Giant Games.
Popcore’s mission is to create ad-driven pop games for everyone, and it has already achieved impressive traction with its early flagship game Connect the Pops!. The game has already been ranked top 100 in more than 100 markets. Just as Candy Crush Saga started the casual mobile gaming trend seven years ago, hyper casual-gaming is now shifting the landscape again and we believe that the team at Popcore will be leading this change.